Tokyo, Japan | Wood: red oak
Kodai Iwamoto, born in Kagoshima, Japan, is a product designer and artist who began his study of product design at Kobe Design University in Japan. While working on his bachelor's degree there, he joined DESIGN SOIL, an educational design project run by teaching staff and students. Through the project, Iwamoto participated in several international design fairs such as Milan Design Week. Iwamoto then moved to Lausanne in Switzerland for 2 years to gain practical skills on a masters course at ECAL. Iwamoto has since moved his base to Tokyo and has been actively working with furniture brands both in Japan and abroad. His work raises questions about the current social structure that relies heavily on mass production, pursuing convenience and efficiency. He expresses the present situation, where the production can't be stopped even though the impact upon the environment is concerned in all aspects, by applying the technique and approach of product design.
‘When I’m designing furniture I always check the prototype at the factory to see its progress. I was a little worried because I couldn’t do that for this project. However, I was excited to start thinking about new work because it was a challenge for me.’
The design process
Iwamoto’s inspiration for his Discovered piece came from his childhood. ‘I remember going to the forest near my house when I was a kid with my father. I peeled the skin off the cedar trees with my hands to make some toys. The trees grow thicker and taller by removing the old bark. I guess I felt the tree’s growing process is very similar to our current times in which the virus breaks old habits and leads to a new era.’
The making of the final piece
Iwamoto decided to make his piece from red oak that is peeled by cutting the panel’s edge and removing the surface by hand. Rather intriguingly he left it up to the manufacturer, Evostyle, to decide how much to take off. ‘The shape of the broken layers are random and therefore the appearance of the work will change depending on the manufacturer,’ he says. ‘I took a different approach, I was keen that the manufacturer should decide how to finish the work, rather than the traditional making method based on a drawing.’
The end result
Iwamoto’s low table represents a tree’s growing process. The Tokyo-based designer researched traditional Japanese techniques such as uzukuri, which gives wood texture by scrubbing, and chouna, where the material’s surface is chiselled with an adze, before deciding to peel its layers to create a new veneer. These textured panels became the lodestar for his round table, which he describes as ‘a representation of an ancient tree trunk and nature. The idea is that the surface is out of control’.